What Could Possibly Be Scarier Than A Smarter Hulk?

The specter of the Hulk lingers forcefully throughout The Immortal Hulk #2. (Image: Joe Bennett, Ruy José, Paul Mounts and Cory Petit, Marvel Comics)

Marvel’s new Immortal Hulk series already delivered a chilling opening story, re-introducing us to a Bruce Banner who’s starting to feel as though he’s simply along for the ride with a Hulk that’s more vindictive and dangerous than ever.

But its second issue has thrown an intriguing wrench into the mix that makes Bruce’s plight even scarier.

Ever since it’s been revealed that the Hulk is immortal — and that Bruce Banner very much isn’t, repeatedly being pulled from eternal slumber by the creature within him — both Bruce and Hulk have been on a dark path, attempting to keep themselves cut off from the superhero world they were once part of while the Hulk metes out a brutal level of justice against any wrongdoer he comes across.

Last week’s Immortal Hulk #2, by Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Ruy José, Paul Mounts and Cory Petit, however, adds an extra, sinister layer to Bruce and the Hulk’s symbiotic relationship.

This time, the “villain” of the month — a gamma radiation scientist named Dr Frye who, like Bruce himself, has been transformed into something more in the wake of an experiment gone horribly wrong — is less outwardly criminal than the robber-turned-murderer we met in the first issue.

That said, his actions to cover up the experiment have lead to the slow, painful deaths of multiple people.

But in the process of figuring out the strange calamity afflicting Frye’s small hometown, Bruce reveals an altogether more chilling new twist in his relationship with the Hulk: Bruce isn’t as smart as he used to be.

Bruce’s investigation leads to a sinister revelation. (Image: Joe Bennett, Ruy José, Paul Mounts and Cory Petit, Marvel Comics)

He’s still a scientist, of course, but he’s no longer capable of the superhuman feats of ingenuity and scientific thought he once had as one of Earth’s mightiest heroes. Each time he’s come back, dragged back by an increasingly more impudent Hulk, part of his former self has faded away.

But that isn't the case for the Hulk, who is increasingly getting more and more articulate when he is out, and even when Bruce is “normal” he is an ever-present force, guiding Bruce mentally through itches and sensations to investigate potential injustices.

Bruce’s narration as he investigates the mysteries of Dr Frye reveals the newfound imbalance in his relationship with the Hulk — there’s a level of wearisome acceptance in Bruce now that he is no longer the person in control.

He isn't containing the Hulk and letting go whenever he transforms; instead, he’s little more than a shell, and when the Hulk wants to appear — as he does when Bruce finally finds the glowing, radiated form of Frye skulking about in a cave — he just does.

The unpredictability that has defined the Hulk as a character for decades is instead replaced here with a grim, petrifying inevitability.

You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. But you really wouldn’t like him when he’s smart about it. (Image: Joe Bennett, Ruy José, Paul Mounts and Cory Petit, Marvel Comics)

The Hulk’s newfound intelligence isn’t exactly like Bruce’s — as he tells Frye, he doesn’t care for science, that’s the job of “the other guy” — but it comes out instead as an uncaring, unflinching vindictiveness.

Bruce Banner means so little to the Hulk now that any humanity Banner might impart is absent from the Hulk’s thoughts.

To this Immortal Hulk, there is no greater justice than an ironic punishment. Instead of killing Frye for his careless coverups, he traps him deep between layers of rock, removing Frye’s limbs so he can’t escape. He’s claustrophobically forced to live out a half-life in abject fear, longing for the death he desperately sought to avoid in the first place.

It’s a form of justice, yes. But it’s tinged with a knowing cruelty that has made this new version of the Hulk far scarier than he’s ever been.


Comments

    What Could Possibly Be Scarier Than A Smarter Hulk?
    Well Hulk is a giant unstoppable hate monster... imagine if he became a real life hate filled monster, or worse he got political. Bruce Banner goes on a hate filled rant about,Brexit, wipes half the EU off the map... (and thats the tamest example I could think of) could be worse, Bruce Banner could be American.... OH $&@!

    It was some time ago now but there was this idea in the Hulk comics. To bring together a group of remarkable people, to see if they could become something more. Oh wait, that's something else.

    Anyway, this idea was that the various Hulk characters were tied to various emotions. Hulk/Bruce was, of course, anger. Normally mild-mannered and placid, you really don't want him to get angry. She-Hulk/Jen was confidence. Normally meek and mousy, she got a huge boost of confidence when she changed - it's why she preferred to stay green all the time. Amadeus Cho was pride. Normally very smart, when he changes over he's prideful to a fault, quite literally. (This also fits in with his teenager-ness.)

    Not sure about the other Hulk characters from this period. Maybe Samson was intelligence? And I've got no idea where Rick/A-Bomb fits into this.

    (Bring all these remarkable people together and perhaps they do become something more?)

    Unfortunately, because new writers bring new things to the table, Hulk comics have moved on from this idea. This is especially annoying for She-Hulk, because without the whole Confidence thing she becomes a very different character, and at worst she becomes 'just the girl hulk'.

    I think it is time for another Marvel and DC cross over, where the Hulk gets a red lantern ring. Would be sick.

      At this point he looks more like a candidate for Yellow

      Pink Ring, gets all love and agry at same times... hugs people to death.

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